The Sims 4: Art Direction

As Art Director on the Base Game Enhancements team, I have been working to assess base game assets for areas in need of improvement and working in conjunction with concept artists and object modelers to create new assets that fill in gaps in what the Base Game offers. Areas marked for improvement range from global lighting, weather systems and rendering, seasonal support for trees and plants, assets created in the early days that no longer fit within our WGLL style guides, adding new hairstyles where our existing set does not provide a robust set of options for players, updating skin color palettes and specularity and more.

As Art Director on the Sims Delivery Express team, I focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives within The Sims franchise. The Sims Delivery Express team provides free TS4 Base Game content to create a more robust and inclusive player experience. Some of the new items created for SDX drops have included: multi-cultural food items, clothing and accessories, furniture, decorative items, and “Create A Sim” features such as hairstyles, eyebrows, noses, and more.

As part of the DEI initiative, I have worked with consultants and concept artists to create new assets, establish a back log of assets for future development, and have helped to create guides and training initiatives for developers across Maxis, with the goal of making the player experience more authentic and representative of our player community.

As Craft Lead on the Environments Team I am responsible for:

– The development, motivation and morale of team members, identify opportunities for growth and provide them with hands on mentorship.
– Ensuring that new assets and levels are maintaining franchise level of quality and prevent style drift, while continually raising the bar and developing new solutions.
– Representing the World team at a leadership level to provide risk assessments and assist with staffing requirements, remove roadblocks and advocate for the needs of my team.
– Researching training opportunities for the growth and development of the World Building team.
– Updating and expanding pipeline documentation and training materials.
– Determining staffing needs and taking a hands on role in the recruiting efforts of the craft, including screening, interviewing, final decisions.
– Establishing and maintaining best practices, quality bar, pipelines, and processes for the World Building team.
– Researching and developing new environment focused game tech and processes.
– Working with engineers, artists, and designers to assess game performance and issues and pinpoint areas for improvement.
– Collaborating with Leads in other departments to ensure good communication and solid working relationships between departments.
– Working with the Tools team to improve the pipeline, update tools and streamline processes.

The Sims 4: Journey to Batuu – A love letter to Star Wars (and Disneyland)

I had the absolute pleasure to be Pack Lead and World Builder on the Journey to Batuu Expansion Pack for The Sims 4. Being a huge Star Wars nerd fan, I thoroughly enjoyed working on this franchise; submerging myself into the world and the story telling, working in conjunction with Lucas and Disneyland Parks to ensure that we were hitting the mark, while also filtering everything through the stylized lens of The Sims.

Maxis sent leadership to the park to gather reference and then we set about not only recreating what you can see in the park, but expanding the world and making minor layout adjustments to fit with TS4 gameplay.

We broke the park into 3 neighborhoods for story telling; a central neutral zone – The Black Spire Outpost, a First Order District occupied zone, and the Resistance Encampment tucked away in the forests of Batuu. We set the world in a canyon, and added additional housing, agriculture and vistas to sell that it is a full biome.

I primarily worked on the Black Spire Outpost neighborhood. The central shipping port and trade district on Batuu, Black Spire Outpost has an open air market, Ronto’s Roasters, Docking Bay 7, Oga’s Cantina, Dock Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, and of course, the Millenium Falcon!

Some of the challenges we faced included creating so many unique landmarks and structures with the package limitations of TS4. We had to be very cleaver about where we allocated our texture budget.

I designed several architectural shells which could be nested and combined to create larger unique structures to fill in the middle ground. These shells used a combination of tiled textures, vertex colors and decals to get the textural, gritty, lived in look of the Star Wars universe.

Doors, windows, greebles and other decos were created as instanced objects with atlased textures, to keep performance numbers looking good while enabling us to create highly detailed and richly decorated scenes.

As Pack Lead, I was also responsible for directing the creation of props, vfx, and interactive objects, overseeing the layout and texturing of the 2 other neighborhoods and the creation of world lighting shared across all three neighborhoods.

The Sims 4: Realm of Magic!

This pack was truly a treat to work on! I was challenged with making floating islands; something that had never been done in the history of The Sims franchise!

Our world building tools use a large, open world style terrain surface, which we can sculpt and paint. This meant that I had to figure out away to remove terrain to simulate floating islands. I did a few days of R&D and came up with a solution, and it totally worked!

Individual “islands” of terrain were isolated, and the rest of the surface area was excluded with a polygon model set to not render. I filled in the area around and under the terrain with rock, dirt and rubble models built in Maya.

I then created a custom lighting scenario which was never full bright daylight, but always dusk, dawn, or night. I created an alpha texture set to scroll across a sphere with manipulated UVs and vertex colors to simulate an auror borealis, to give the sky a magical atmospheric effect.

A debris field was created using an animated vertex shader, as well as animating chunks from the broken bridge and adding larger floating rocks and furniture.

I added spooky and magical VFX such as a swarm of bats and bursts of colorful sparkles shooting from chimneys.

The dark moody lighting was brightened by glowing crystals and magical portals were how Sims navigated from one island to the next. Glowing runes trace the ground using a combination of vertex colors and a scrolling light map.

All of this moody, mysterious and maybe a little spooky set dressing is meant to tell the story that the magic realm broke itself apart from the non-magic realm – either intentionally, or unintentionally... that is up to the player to decide.

The Sims 4: World Building

As a World Builder, I was responsible for Level Design, Terrain Sculpting and Painting, Set Dressing, Asset Creation, Water creation, Hard Surface modeling, Lighting, VFX placement and Performance Testing and Optimization.

I created levels for the following shipped packages:

The Sims 4: Island Living
The Sims 4: Realm of Magic
The Sims 4: Journey to Batuu
The Sims 4: Cottage Living
The Sims 4: High School Years

Vainglory: Sovereign’s Rise 5v5 Map

Sovereign’s Rise is the second map created for Vainglory, which expanded gameplay from 3v3 to 5v5. Development of this map was done on an extremely short schedule, and we utilized outsource teams to meet the tight deadline.

As Environment Art Lead I was responsible for staffing, management, scheduling, working with the TD to create pipeline processes and improvements, outsource management and Art Direction.